Reading: Portraiture: The Paradoxes and Politics of Looking // Rebecca Horne


Horne several times speaks of whether a portrait works or not. Relating to this, two questions come to mind:

  • When does a portrait ‘work’? Does it have to say something finite about the subject? Does it merely have to make us wander in thought’s about the subject and their situation? What if the photo gives us another impression of the subject than what the person is like in real life?
  • Does this threshold of whether a portrait works or not in fact contradict her point that we can’t know a person simply by looking at them?

My stance on the issue is that we can easily learn a lot about a person by looking at a portrait of them, which is something we have discussed in class regarding the portraits taken for every week. It’s about context. A portrait can be more or less ‘anonymous’. Sure, through a photo you can easily make assumptions that turn out to be wrong, but the same goes for assumptions made of a person made through things the person has said. Thus, a photograph is not necessarily inferior to a conversation of regards of learning something about the person.


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